Published: Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 02:02
When Audri Rousseau first met 2002 Miss America winner Katie Harman in the third grade, Rousseau fell in love with the idea of beauty pageants.
Rousseau, an Oregon State University student, was named Miss Linn-Benton 2013 in a competition held on Feb. 16 at the Hult Center for Performing Arts in Eugene.
“I was completely shocked,” Rousseau said. “I basically just burst into tears because I didn’t think that I was going to win at all.”
Originally, Rousseau signed up for the competition to gain experience, but ended up winning the competition.
According to Joce DeWitt of the Salem Statesman Journal, there were five events in the competition, including interview, evening gown, lifestyle and fitness, or swimsuit competition, talent and on-stage questions.
Rousseau performed a jazz dance for her talent event.
“My dance and cheer background made me so much more comfortable on stage,” Rousseau said. “Being comfortable on stage is, for a lot of people, the biggest hurdle to get over.”
Rousseau started taking ballet lessons in kindergarten and later took pre-jazz lessons the summer after second grade. Rousseau took lessons until her freshman year of high school, when she began cheerleading for West Salem High School.
“[Dance] has been a creative outlet for me,” Rousseau said. “If I’m bored, upset, or have too much energy, I just dance.”
Rousseau’s mother, Lisa, said her daughter was devoted to dance and cheerleading at West Salem. Rousseau stopped dance lessons in high school in order to focus on her grades and school work.
“She may have started dancing before she started walking,” Lisa Rousseau said. “She has always loved to perform for an audience, whether it be for mom and dad at home, at a dance recital, or dancing and cheering for her high school.”
The Miss Linn-Benton competition was not Rousseau’s first beauty pageant. In 2011, Rousseau was awarded the Distinguished Young Women scholarship, another competition including talent, interview, evening gown and on-stage questions.
“I think that experience helped a lot with getting ready for this [competition],” Rousseau said.
Rousseau said in seventh grade she begged her parents to let her compete in her first pageant. When she was granted permission, she placed as the fourth runner-up out of 190 other girls.
“I was over the moon and so excited,” Rousseau said. “My parents let me do it as, ‘OK, we’ll get this out of her system and then we’ll be done,’ and I did so well, so they were like, ‘Oh no, now we have to keep doing this.’”
Rousseau is now preparing to compete in the Miss Oregon competition in Seaside from June 26-29. She will compete with 20 to 25 others for the title.
Rousseau plans to revamp her dance, watch her eating, work on her interviews and stay up to date on current events to prepare for the Miss Oregon competition.
“Audri is well on her way to achieving her goals and could easily be our next Miss Oregon,” said Zonnie Ann Borg, co-director of the Miss Linn-Benton Scholarship Program. “And who knows, perhaps the next Miss America.”
Someday, Rousseau hopes to have her own effect on girls who dream of becoming a princess.
“For me, it was such an eye-opening experience,” Rousseau said. “As a little girl, I saw a princess, and if I can go into an elementary school and just be a princess to a couple of third graders, that would be amazing.”
Katherine Choi, news reporter